Arbitration case heard
Whether or not Alberta teachers receive salary increases is a decision that is now in the hands of an independent arbitration tribunal. Representatives from the Alberta Teachers’ Association and the Teachers’ Employer Bargaining Association (TEBA) presented their respective positions before the tribunal in mid-November. A decision is expected sometime in the new year. The arbitration tribunal includes an Association nominee, a TEBA nominee and a chair agreed to by both sides.
This arbitration process to decide the salary issue is the last step of a bargaining process that began in the spring of 2018 and yielded a central table settlement that was ratified in May 2019. The agreement covers the time period from Sept. 1, 2018 to Aug. 31, 2020. ❚
Changes to election finance rules that may affect organizations like the Alberta Teachers’ Association appear to be coming next spring. The government has been consulting with public sector unions but isn’t saying what changes are in the works. (The ATA was invited to consult but declined due to the short notice provided).
“We haven’t made any decisions on changes, period,” said Labour and Immigration Minister Jason Copping. “Once we finish the consultations, then we’ll figure out what changes we’re going to make that fulfil our campaign commitment.”
Last spring during the general election, the United Conservative Party pledged to protect unionized workers from “being forced to fund political parties and causes” without explicit approval. The party also promised to prohibit groups that are formally affiliated with political parties from running political action committees, a move viewed as targeting the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL).
On Nov. 26, the CBC reported that the government intends to change the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act adopted by the previous NDP government. The act restricted spending by political action committees in the months before an election and prohibited unions and corporations from donating to political parties.
AFL president Gil McGowan said he anticipates that the new legislation will “gag” unions by restricting their ability to engage in political campaigns.
“They will … say that they are doing this to protect the rights and freedoms of individual Alberta workers, but let’s be serious. The UCP is the boss’s party, not the workers’ party,” McGowan said.
“The law they’re about to introduce isn’t motivated by concern for ordinary working Albertans. And it’s not motivated by concerns about freedom, rights or democracy. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of all of those things.” ❚
Ontario teachers strike
After eight months of bargaining, Ontario teachers are taking strike action as frustration mounts over what they feel is a lack of meaningful engagement by the Doug Ford government.
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) says the government isn’t addressing crucial issues like class size, e-learning and members’ job security. The federation launched a one-day strike on Dec. 3, after previously engaging in information pickets and the limited withdrawal of administrative services.
“In light of the government’s refusal to engage in meaningful bargaining, it is time to send a clear message that the teachers and education workers of OSSTF/FEESO are ready to defend Ontario’s publicly funded education system,” said OSSTF president Harvey Bischof in a news release.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario started a work-to-rule campaign on Nov. 26 and members of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association recently voted 97.1 per cent in favour of taking strike action if necessary. ❚
Minister cool to voucher system
Although delegates at the United Conservative Party’s annual general meeting adopted a policy calling for a voucher system that would fully fund private schools, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange expressed no interest.
On Nov. 30, delegates at the party’s AGM in Calgary voted 307 to 267 in favour of adopting a policy proposed by the constituency association in Lacombe–Ponoka. The policy calls for implementation of “an education ‘voucher system’ that will provide for equal per-student funding regardless of their school choice, free from caveats or conditions.”
“At this point in time, I’m just undertaking a funding and assurance review model, but it does not include a voucher system,” LaGrange told Star Edmonton. ❚
Hundreds of protesters march outside the Alberta United Conservative Party annual general meeting in Calgary on Nov. 30.